Making big data small

Tools making health care more transparent can profoundly influence health trends in society

We live in a world of health data. With fitness trackers, electronic health records, sleep monitoring and countless other ways to track and measure our health, we’ve entered an exciting era in which the flow of data to our doctors, pharmacists and other care providers is revolutionizing how and how fast health care services are delivered. It’s also given consumers windows into their own health that was just a dream 20, 10, even five years ago.

Not long ago, we really only got a picture of our health once a year when we went to our doctor for an annual check-up. We’d get blood drawn, blood pressure, weight and other vital statistics were taken, and our doctor would declare us healthy or give us things to work on.

Right now, as I write this, I can look on my wrist and see my current heart rate, resting heart rate, activity level, how I slept and other real-time data – even my current weight trend to the tenth of a pound, thanks to my smart scale. I’m an app away from my medical charts and recent diagnostic tests. My fingerprint opens my health plan’s physician network, deductible and claims data. Each of these and other windows give me nearly instant access to information about my financial, emotional and physical health.

What really excites me, however, is the emergence of tools that consolidate and simplify these different windows of data. These new tools are incredibly powerful opportunities for consumers to see a more holistic and comprehensive picture of their health than ever before possible. We’re seeing tools emerge that can make connections between these pieces of data and make health connections that can prevent disease, save money and help us lead healthier lives.

At Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield (Anthem), we recently launched a tool called Engage. Through a partnership with Castlight Health, Anthem’s Engage app is a digital health assistant that connects health plan data with personal health data to allow for real-time, actionable health information in an easy-to-understand format. The app allows employees to:

  • Celebrate healthy choices. Track sleep, steps and food, and earn points for hitting well-being goals.
  • See all of their perks in one place. Save time and money by discovering benefits and programs they may not know they have.
  • Get peace of mind. Clearly see what’s covered by their plan and access their digital member ID card when on-the-go.

When you think about it, data is only as good as its accessibility. When good data becomes accessible, understandable and actionable, real change is possible. That’s why I’m so excited about Engage and other tools making health care more transparent, simple and visible through one big window instead of many small ones.

These tools have the power to so profoundly inform and engage consumers that we may soon see reversals of troubling health trends plaguing our society.

More posts from Paul